Bosnia and Herzegovina: Young Man Who Allegedly Tried to Join Islamic State Testifies Against Bosnic
An 18-year-old arrested in February at the Sarajevo Airport while allegedly embarking for Syria to fight for the Islamic State (IS), testified that he attended the speeches of suspected IS recruiter Husein "Bilal" Bosnic before the trip.
He was one of three witnesses who took the stand at Wednesday's hearing in the trial of Bosnic, who is accused of publicly inciting terrorist activities and recruiting Bosnian citizens to fight alongside IS in Syria.
Merim Keserovic, a high school dropout from the village of Trnovi near Velika Kladusa, told the court in an unsteady voice that he attended Bosnic's speeches at Friday prayers. However, when the prosecutor asked him what Bosnic said in those speeches, he testified he could not recall.
Prosecutor Dubravko Campara then produced a report that Keserovic gave to Banja Luka police at the time of his arrest. In the report, signed by Keserovic, he told police Bosnic's speeches said the "brothers" fighting for IS in Syria need to be supported, and that believers should go and join them in their battle.
Keserovic testified Wednesday that he was confused when he gave this statement and does not remember what he told police at the time. He also claims that parts of the report were written by the police officers.
He confirmed that he was on his way to Syria in February together with Nevad Husidic, and that he was given names of people he should report to on arrival. The court did not pursue any further details regarding the circumstances of his attempted departure, as his trial regarding this event is a separate court case.
He told the court that his cousin Alija Keserovic, who is currently in Syria, was living with Bosnic before he left for Syria.
The next witness was yet another cousin of the two, Kenan Keserovic, 25. He testified that he used to have a good relationship with Alija as he lived close to him and they were born the same year. He explained that Alija was in a difficult financial situation as his father died of cancer about a year ago, leaving no one to provide for his mother and his two brothers.
He testified that he didn't have much contact with Alija recently - except for a phone call in November 2014 when Alija told him to inform his mother that he arrived in Syria "alive and well". He said that nobody knows when exactly Alija left for Syria, but that some time before the mentioned phone call, he left his home village to live with Bosnic and mind his goats for about two months in the village Buzim – only visiting home a couple of days at a time.
He said that, during those visits home, he noticed that Alija changed his behavior and stopped spending time with his old friends, who would go to discos and drink alcohol.
The court also heard testimony from another witness whose identity is being protected. Journalists are not permitted to report on what this witness said.
Bosnic's defense attorney Adil Lozo informed the court that he will seek an expert opinion by the Sarajevo Faculty of Islamic Studies to determine whether Bosnic's speeches were inciting terrorist activities, or if they are only interpretations of Islamic teachings. He claims the prosecution took some of Bosnic's statements out of context, and that this trial is a serious attack on freedom of belief and thought.